We have this need to tell people we know just the way it is. No matter our limited scope of experience or our incomplete knowledge of the subject, we’ve just got to let the world know we’ve got a handle on it.
I came to a crisis point in my Facebook discussion with one particular antagonist. When the posting stopped for a few days (for reasons you will soon discover) I fell into dire panic. My dearly beloved social media outlet looked so pale; flower gardens and funny cat videos, public declarations of love between participants in a fresh romance, humorous and twisted graphics, none of these were enough. I CRAVED conflict. And the sense of loss over its absence was pervasive.
Here’s how it began. I was reading inflammatory posts from this guy and they had no argumentative position, just random assertions. I decided at some point that enough was enough and someone needed to speak out and counter the BS and that someone was me. I had no illusions of convincing him. My goal was to have him see me as the real live complex counterpart of his straw man, and I knew it was somehow healthy for me to see that behind the annoying statements was another fully valid human being that was becoming a caricature. In other words, to engage in civil dialog.
My sister warned me that this would only end badly. I insisted (with some real evidence) that we were not at each other’s throats but bonded by some higher love, even if I don’t particularly ‘like’ him at certain moments.
So, fast forward to present; I got so steamed at a post of his that I briefly fantasized physical violence against him. All my notions of civil discussion were dispelled and I saw my sister’s warning as truly prescient. Another family member made a pointed remark on the same post about how disturbing she found it all and I was done with it.
I stopped cold and for a time so did he. What followed for me were days of reckoning with the gnawing realization that our philosophical tussle was feeding on some pathological energy. Like a drug addict I started referring to it as “juice.” What was truly upsetting was that in the process of going at it tooth and claw on Facebook we had been disturbing others near and dear to us. So I’m trying to reform. In the future I intend to be more temperate and pick and choose when to participate. Some of my counterpart’s posts require being challenged in the arena and other demand only the echo chamber of silence.
What drives us to this? I call it “prognosturbation” and define it as follows: The powerful need to obsessively pleasure yourself by telling the world what is and what will be.”
I want to live in a different world. The world I want is a world where I learn the most because I admit that I don’t quite get it. It is a world that is suggestive and incomplete in such a tantalizing way that it acts to draw me out.
As a child, we experience the world of adults as a fascinating mystery. I have a memory of listening to the rhythm of adult conversation at a party from my perch on the upstairs landing. I could hear the muffled sounds of many voices rippling back and forth. But then it was a single voice only, and then a pause, and then the delivery of some key opaque phrase, then the laughter. Even though I couldn’t understand the words there was something there that I wanted. It was in the rhythm and in the energy. As children, we start from a place of not getting it. I think that remains the healthy place to be. Not clueless. But listening, curious, engaged, and circumspect.